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Cynthia Werner

Cynthia Werner
Director of ADVANCE, Promotion and Tenure Committee Chair
  • YMCA 108
Professional Links
PhD, Indiana University, 1997
Cultural Anthropology


Economic anthropology, gender, migration, risk, Central Asia

Current Research Projects:

Since 2004, I have been conducting research on the transnational migration of Mongolia’s Kazakh population. After the fall of the Soviet Union, Mongolia’s Kazakh population started to migrate to the newly independent Republic of Kazakhstan, a location that is newly imagined as their homeland. This is a collaborative project with Holly Barcus, a geographer at Macalester College. We are interested in the factors that shape individual and family decisions to migrate or stay in place. We are also interested in how gender shapes migration decisions and migration impacts, and the role that kin-based social networks play in helping to maintain transnational networks and social identities.

Since 2001, I have been conducting research on the legacy of nuclear testing in northeastern Kazakhstan. This is a collaborative project (with environmental chemist Kathleen Purvis-Roberts at the Claremont Colleges). After World War Two, the Soviet Union developed a major nuclear test site in northeastern Kazakhstan that served as the location for 116 above-ground tests and 340 underground tests between 1949 and 1989. Our project involves interviews and surveys with Kazakh and Russian villagers who live near the Polygon, health care workers in the region most affected by nuclear testing, and research scientists who work at the former test site. We are interested in how perceptions of risk vary across these groups. We are also interested in the politics of risk, as the victims of nuclear testing struggle to find justice in the form of compensation and quality health care.

Courses Taught:

ANTH 210 – Social and Cultural Anthropology
ANTH 335 – Cultures of Central Asia
ANTH 404 – Women and Culture
ANTH 430 – Applied Anthropology
ANTH 640 – Ethics and Professionalism in Anthropology
ANTH 650 – Ethnographic Field Methods
ANTH 670 – Bridging Theme Seminar in Anthropology

Current Graduate Students:

Byeibitgul Khaumyen, Kevin Johnson, Aigul Seralinova

Selected and Recent Publications:

2018 Cynthia Werner, Christopher Edling, Charles Becker, Elena Kim, Russell Kleinbach, Fatima Sartbay, and Woden Teachout. “Bride Kidnapping in Post-Soviet Eurasia: A Roundtable Discussion” Central Asian Survey 37(4):582-601.
2017         Holly Barcus and Cynthia Werner. “Choosing to Stay: (Im)Mobility Decisions Among Mongolia’s Ethnic Kazakhs.” Globalizations 14(1):32-50.

2015         Cynthia Werner and Holly Barcus. “The Unequal Burdens of Repatriation: A Gendered Analysis of the Transnational Migration of Mongolia’s Kazakh Population” American Anthropologist 117(2): 257-271.

2015         Holly Barcus and Cynthia Werner. “Immobility and the Re-imaginings of Ethnic Identity among Mongolian Kazakhs in the 21st Century.” Geoforum 59: 119-128.

2013         Cynthia Werner, Holly Barcus, and Namara Brede. “Discovering a Sense of WellBeing Through the Revival of Islam: Profiles of Kazakh Imams in Western Mongolia” Central Asian Survey 32(4): 527-541.

2010         Holly Barcus and Cynthia Werner. “The Kazakhs of Western Mongolia: Transnational Migration from 1990-2008” Asian Ethnicity 11(2): 209-228.

2009         Cynthia Werner. “Bride Abduction in Post-Soviet Central Asia: Marking a Shift Towards Patriarchy through Local Discourses of Shame and Tradition” Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute 15: 314-331.

2007         Kathleen Purvis-Roberts, Cynthia Werner, and Irene Frank. “Perceived Risks from Radiation and Nuclear Testing Near Semipalatinsk, Kazakhstan: A Comparison Between Physicians, Scientists and the Public” Risk Analysis 27(2): 291-302.

2000         Cynthia Werner. “Gifts, Bribes and Development in Post-Soviet Kazakhstan”. Human Organization: Journal of the Society for Applied Anthropology 59(1): 11-22.